Laurens van Hoepen came across the line in fifth position to cap off a great Spielberg Sprint Race for the ART Grand Prix team with Nikola Tsolov victorious and Christian Mansell third.

The Dutch driver was able to make up a position during a frenetic race that included two Safety Cars and plenty of overtaking.

Talking his way through the race afterwards, van Hoepen says that it was a fun one to be involved in as he fought for the upper points positions in the Sprint.

“I think it was a crazy race, very fun to drive though because a lot was going on and you could see the guys fighting in the front, so everybody got closer to each other,” he explained. “There was a lot of stuff happening, so you had to be really focused and make sure you were doing good lines and really focus on saving the tyres, so it was an interesting race.”

Going into the specifics of defending and attacking in such a closely-fought race, the ART driver says that it was a difficult balance to strike.

READ MORE: SPRINT RACE: Tsolov earns win number two of 2024 in Spielberg

Late on, he came under pressure from PREMA Racing’s Gabriele Minì, and the Italian looked to have a great chance at taking fifth on the final lap, though the ART man was able to hold him off.

Such was his focus on keeping position, van Hoepen says he didn’t realise it was the final lap of the race but was very happy to have secured another top five result.

“It's really about focusing on doing your corner well, making sure that you are close to the car in front when the car behind you is close to you so you can more focus on attacking instead of defending.

The Dutch driver says his battle to keep fifth in the closing stages was good fun and valuable information for the Feature
The Dutch driver says his battle to keep fifth in the closing stages was good fun and valuable information for the Feature

“Ultimately when you really get into where you have to defend every lap, you really start to go in like a negative cycle and you really don't want to be in that because then you just start losing places. So, it's really important to just keep calm and really focus on doing your job.”

“It was super close with Gabriele to losing the position, it was just really hard to stay there at the end of the race. In the end, I think he did a good job of defending, it was hard but fair. Then I thought we had one more lap to go, so I was like ‘Oh no, I like I really have to keep going and being focused on doing a good job.’ But then I saw the chequered flag and I was very relieved.”

With all three ART drivers starting inside the top 12 in the Feature Race, van Hoepen says that the team can take a great deal of confidence into Sunday’s event.

Most importantly though, he and the team now have representative data on the Soft compound Pirelli tyres around a conventional track, something that should help them in their planning for the Feature.

Looking ahead, the Dutchman believes that all three stand a great chance of moving forward through the pack as ART look to cement their move up to second in the Teams’ Standings, having moved ahead of Trident following the Sprint.

“I think it shows that we're really making progress as a team, which is of course what you want. So going into go into tomorrow, it gives us a lot more confidence.

“I think I've learned a lot about the tyres today because it was the first race on a normal track with the Soft tyres, so you learn a lot from that. Coming into tomorrow with all this new information you can take into that race gives me confidence. So, I think we can do a good job.”